Earthquake Drill Will Shake Things Up on Thursday

On Aug. 23, 2011, the first day of classes at the University of Virginia was interrupted by a historic 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered near Louisa, just east of Charlottesville. Earthquakes are rare in Central Virginia, so few in the University community knew how to respond.

To remind us that earthquakes do occur in this area and what the best actions are, U.Va. is participating in the first Great SouthEast ShakeOut, a multi-state drill set for Thursday at 10:18 a.m. (That’s 10/18 at 10:18.)

On that date, millions of people will participate, from Guam to Alaska to southern Italy.

“We’d like as many people to participate as possible without compromising classes, patient care or other essential services,” Marge Sidebottom, director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness, said.

The ShakeOut program began in 2008 in California. The Great SouthEast ShakeOut covers the area from Maryland to Georgia, including the District of Columbia. It’s being sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and states’ emergency management agencies, including the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

“Certainly the 2011 earthquake was a factor in the creation of the SouthEast ShakeOut,” Sidebottom said.

Participants are asked to think through and practice their safety responses. Those who can’t should take a moment to plan what they would do, Sidebottom said.

What is a safety response? Here are the recommendations from the ShakeOut organizers.

• If you are inside, stay there. Most injuries are caused by persons falling down or by objects falling on them. Drop! Cover! Hold on! If there is nothing to hide under, drop to the floor and if possible, move to an inside corner of a room and cover your head. Avoid places where something might fall.

If you are outside, move to a clear area if safe to do so; avoid power lines, trees, signs, buildings and other hazards. Remain in the open until the shaking stops.

If you are in a moving vehicle, pull over to the side of the road, stop and set the parking brake. Avoid overpasses, bridges, power lines, signs and other hazards. Stay inside the vehicle until the shaking is over. If a power line falls on the car, stay inside until a trained person removes the wire.

After the earthquake stops:

• Look around to be sure it is safe to move.

• Call 911 to report injuries, fire, gas leaks, debris and other hazards. 

• Stay alert for aftershocks, some of which could be as strong or stronger than the original earthquake. 

In any emergency, the most up-to-date information will be posted on the University homepage, University announcements will also be made on WTJU 91.1 FM radio.

Contact the Office of Emergency Preparedness at with questions or if your area is planning additional ShakeOut activities. “We like to share good practices evolving across Grounds,” Sidebottom said.

Media Contact

Marian Anderfuren

UVA Media Relations